For most people, the Amazon Prime vs. Walmart ShippingPass isn’t much of a debate.
Amazon Prime, they say, is by far the superior service because of everything that you get with the $99-a-year subscription.
It’s not just free two-day shipping – there’s the streaming video, cloud storage, family privileges, Kindle discounts and the added perk of getting same day or 1-hour delivery in some cities.
On the flip side, Walmart’s ShippingPass program offers free two-day shipping for only $49. Saving $50 a year is pretty attractive for people who make most of their purchases online and aren’t interested in streaming video or cloud storage.
Those surface-level perks aren’t enough to sway websites from hailing Amazon as the superior choice, though:
- The Motley Fool: “Variety and availability of products, along with ever-faster delivery times and Amazon’s lower free-delivery minimum for books, puts the online giant Amazon ahead of big-box retail rival Wal-Mart in terms of delivery services.”
- Yahoo Finance: “No company as big as Walmart takes on a business venture without believing it can bring positive results. But trying to compete with Prime? That just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.”
- NerdWallet: “For a more comprehensive online shopping experience — including options for free same-day and two-hour delivery in some metro areas — Amazon Prime is the clear choice, especially if you’ll also use features like its streaming music and movies.”
We’ll be the first to admit to you that Amazon Prime is the superior all-around membership, but we’re most concerned about shipping and pricing because that’s probably what you’re most concerned about as Christmas Day draws near.
To get a clear sense of the pros and cons of each service, we’re going to look at four areas we think are really important to the average consumer during the holidays: shipping perks, pricing, returns, and exclusions.
Before we head in that direction, though, we want to give you an idea of how popular Amazon and Walmart are in terms of apps, thanks to data that app analytics site Apptopia gave us. The statistics reflect usage numbers in the U.S. in the 60 days leading up to this article:
- Amazon – 3.7 million
- Walmart – 3.2 million
Daily active users:
- Amazon – 1.4 million
- Walmart – 1.3 million
Both apps are in the top-5 of the shopping category, with Amazon carrying a #2 ranking and Walmart a #5 ranking at the time of publishing.
Shipping Perks: Amazon Rules With Same-Day Shipping
If there’s one perk that sets Amazon Prime apart from Walmart ShippingPass, it’s the ability to get an item shipped to you in less than 24 hours.
Same-day delivery is only available to Prime customers in major cities, though, including 12 of 15 of the country’s biggest cities:
There are a few restrictions to this, though. First, you only get free same-day shipping when you buy $35 or more in merchandise. Otherwise, it’s a $5.99 fee.
Also, the Amazon Same-Day service is available for more than 1 million products, but not the full 30 million Amazon offers.
Walmart’s ShippingPass gives two-day shipping for free but does not offer one-day shipping.
Pricing: Forget Video and Cloud Storage, Is Amazon Overcharging You?
If you haven’t noticed, there are a slew of articles about Amazon Prime’s notoriously high prices when compared to non-Prime items on Amazon’s site.
A dad, the article says, wanted to buy a magazine subscription for his daughter. The subscription normally cost $5.21, but when he logged on with his Amazon Prime account, the price was $11.21.
The stories go beyond just this one dad, too.
Customers regularly see Amazon Prime items listed at the top of their searches at prices higher than other results. And why do Amazon Prime items get listed first? We like how Geekwire explained the factors that influence search results on Amazon.
“Amazon’s recommendations are part of Amazon’s secret sauce. It takes into account many factors when deciding which product should earn the buy button,” reporter Trisha Duryee wrote, “including a seller’s reputation, price and whether or not it is an item Amazon stocks in its warehouse or if the product ships from the vendor’s fulfillment center.”
And this, she said, is why customers often won’t encounter the cheapest items first. This issue became so annoying to consumers that several lawsuits were filed against the online retailer.
Amazon Prime’s higher prices ignited discussions on Amazon’s customer forums and spawned a rather spirited Reddit thread. Reddit user shawmuttv2 bemoaned Prime prices as he or she was putting together a care package for a family member, noting that, in some cases, Prime prices were 100% higher than other sellers.
The basic argument is this: Why pay for Prime if a Prime item is $13.99 with free shipping and the non-Prime item is $10 with $4 shipping? The advantage is that you get 2-day shipping with Prime, whereas marketplace (third-party) sellers ship on a 5-8 day schedule, and sometimes longer. Also, you’re dealing directly with Amazon when you buy with Prime, not a third-party seller.
When compared to Walmart’s prices, Amazon Prime performed quite well. We did a quick search of several items (KitchenAid mixer, Xbox One and FitBit Charge 2) and the Amazon Prime prices were either equal to or better than Walmart:
- Xbox One Battlefield One 1: $298 AP, $299 WM
- KitchenAid Classic 4.5-Qt Stand Mixer K45SS: $189 AP, $189 WM
- FitBit Charge 2: $149.88 AP, $149.95 WM
ShippingPass Prices Are Higher, Too
While Amazon has gotten a bad rap for featuring Prime prices that are higher than marketplace prices, it’s worth noting that Walmart’s prices reflect the same disparity. Their website offers third-party sellers alongside ShippingPass items, and those third-party prices are typically cheaper.
Returns: Life is a Little Easier With ShippingPass
The buying process on Walmart.com and Amazon.com is straightforward, as is the shipping. But what happens when you don’t like what you’ve gotten?
There are significant differences between the return process for Amazon Prime and Walmart ShippingPass.
Amazon Prime Return Policy
You have three options for returning something you bought with your Prime membership:
- Return via UPS for free if the item you bought was eligible for free returns.*
- Return via UPS and pay for shipping because the item wasn’t eligible for free returns.
- Exchange your Prime item for another Prime item and get free shipping on the returned item.
*Check the product page for a “Free Returns” designation.
You also have the option of dropping off returns at an Amazon Locker instead of a UPS location, but this option is only available in certain cities.
There are some exceptions to these return rules, though. For example, one of Amazon’s help pages says that, if you’re returning the item because Amazon made an error in sending it, Amazon will “process your return and issue a full refund with no deduction for return shipping after receiving your return of the eligible product(s).”
We’ll give you a lengthier exclusions lists in a few minutes. In the meantime, let’s get into the return process for ShippingPass members.
Walmart’s ShippingPass Return Policy
ShippingPass’ return policy is more forgiving than Amazon Prime, mainly because you can make returns at any one of the 3,465 Supercenter locations in the United States. So, rather than getting stuck with return shipping costs, you can just take your product to the nearest Walmart.
This solution is pretty simple, but it may be an annoyance to someone who bought ShippingPass because they didn’t want to deal with the lines at a brick-and-mortar location.
You have 90 days to return the item for a full refund, assuming the item is in its original condition, which brings us to our next point.
All returns of Walmart merchandise purchased online must be returned with “all original packing materials and accessories,” Walmart’s returns page says.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, just like Amazon Prime, you have the option of buying items from third-party sellers known as “dealers and resellers.” If you purchase an item from a dealer or reseller, your items “are not eligible for return, refund, or exchange,” Walmart’s website says.
Exclusions & Limitations
Now that you’ve got a good read on pricing and return policies, it’s time to talk exclusions. While both of these programs have their strengths, they also have certain weaknesses linked to their limitations.
Walmart: No Third-Party Refunds
We’ve already talked about one of these: Walmart doesn’t accept returns from items purchased on Walmart.com from resellers or dealers. Amazon, on the other hand, does allow refunds but you may have to pay for return shipping.
Walmart: Limited ShippingPass Options
When we say “limited,” we’re saying that in comparison to Amazon Prime. According to several different sources, ShippingPass is eligible on about 1 million products on the Walmart website, while Amazon Prime is available for about 30 million products on Amazon’s site.
Amazon Prime: Minimum Purchase Required for Free Shipping on 3rd party Purchases
Here’s a curveball for you: Walmart ShippingPass customers get free shipping on third-party purchases no matter how much you spend. Amazon Prime customers, on the other hand, only get free shipping on:
- Books, if you spend at least $25
- Everything else, if you spend at least $49
If you’re using Amazon as your exclusive site for gift purchases, then the minimum purchase rule isn’t a big deal. It becomes less of a problem if you’re buying a Prime item.
Walmart ShippingPass: U.S. Only
Walmart’s free two-day shipping program is good in the United States only. Amazon, on the other hand, offers Prime in the United States and Europe.
For example, when my wife and I were living in Barcelona, Spain, I used Prime to order things we needed for our baby via the Spanish Amazon Prime site.
Walmart ShippingPass Has Perks, but Amazon Prime Wins Out
We started off this article by highlighting some of the expert’s opinions about Amazon Prime versus Walmart ShippingPass. While we think their claims were pretty solid, we also think they left out some important differences between the two shipping services.
First, returns, in our opinion, are better with ShippingPass because you can avoid return shipping costs by heading to a local Walmart Superstore.
Second, Walmart offers free shipping on third-party purchases without a minimum purchase requirement.
Aside from those two points, Amazon Prime offers some pretty great shipping perks, the best of which, in our opinion, is same-day shipping in many of America’s biggest cities.
To get more perspective on the debate, we talked with Highya reporter Autumn Yates.
Autumn generated some amazing articles for our Holiday Shopping and Travel Guide, and she’s been an ace reporter on the shopping and travel beat for a long time.
One of her favorite things about the Amazon Prime program is that it gives significant discounts to college students.
“With the student discount, you get a free Prime membership for six months, which gives you unlimited free shipping, unlimited streaming and storage and exclusive discounts,” she said. “After that, you get Prime at 59% of the regular price. And, you each get another $5 off every time you refer another student.”
As a shipping service, Autumn said Amazon Prime is a lifesaver if you’re living overseas. While living in Ireland and Korea, she was able to get two-day shipping through each country’s Amazon Prime site.
“Having lived around the world I really enjoyed it because it could get savings on shipping,” Autumn said. “When you live in rural Ireland and Korea, I was able to order stuff reminiscent of home for much less that I would have been able otherwise.”
She also pointed out that she loves to research her purchases before buying them. Amazon Prime lets her take all the time she wants to study up on a particular item, then buy it and receive it in two days.
Final Thoughts: Prime is the Winner
When we boil this comparison down to shipping services, we think Amazon Prime offers the advantage because they have 30 million products in the Prime program, as well as same-day shipping in many of the country’s biggest cities.
To Walmart’s credit, returns are simple. If you’re someone who tends to return online purchases, you may enjoy ShippingPass more.
As you gear up for the holiday season, shipping is probably one of many concerns. We’ve created a holiday shopping and travel guide we think you’ll find useful. We cover a variety of topics, with each article giving you smart, actionable tips to make this holiday season an enjoyable one.
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